From Encyclopaedia to Hypertext
Our starting point is that hypertext is the ideal limit of encyclopaedia, the materialized metaphor of unity of science. As a virtual memory which is waiting to be glanced, crossed, navigated by its readers, hypertext conglomerates the destiny, not only of encyclopaedia (whose combinatory and heuristic regime it extends), but also of science (whose cognitive and institutional mechanisms it challenges), of library (which is being transformed in a universal electronic institution), of (virtual) museum tending to become universally accessible, finally, of school, mainly university, which is being deeply transformed (electronic university) and, thus also of the forms of citizenship.
Now, after the abandonment of the encyclopaedic project of Logical Positivism, a tendency begins for giving the encyclopaedia a structural model able to overcome the dispersing of information to which encyclopaedia is more and more submitted. The most innovative encyclopaedias are going to reject the alphabetic order as well as the disciplinary organization. They tend to adopt a thematic structure and to claim for an interdisciplinary range and heuristic role. Their objective is to open themselves to the new conceptual structures and objects of study, to follow and attend the new ways which are being pursued by contemporary research. Thus means that, on the contrary of what could be expected, we do not dwell with the abandonment of the idea of totality. What we face is the idea that the totality of knowledge is not to be reached by an additive strategy but arises from the complexity of the articulations. That is why encyclopaedia becomes dense, thick in its interior, made of potential relationships, merely announced, imagined, established as possible, never exhausted in a textuallity which would embrace them in a continuous discourse.
That is why hypertex - the ideal limit of encyclopaedia - more than a stable, fixed order, more than a compact form, estimates its own value from the plurality of languages which are crossing it, from the strength of the potential relations which it gave rise, from the heuristic virtualities which he liberates.
How to explain this recent restructuring of encyclopaedia?
What sense can be disclosed in the internal configuration of the decentralized, interdisciplinary, heuristic structure of encyclopaedia and hypertext?
What thruth resides both in the slow, sensual, heavy pull off the volumes of encyclopeadias and in the speedy, fugacious, light floatinf of hypertext?
What promise pass through their pages?